GVI: Volunteer in Costa Rica

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With almost six percent of the world's biodiversity in Costa Rica, it’s a country teeming with various species and ecosystems. Opportunities range from species specific projects and wildlife conservation to various community development programs.

All GVI programs ensure that you will be contributing towards sustainable objectives that have been carefully aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and support the protection of Costa Rican ecology and the empowerment of local communities.

This allows you to experience the abounding nature of the country, like trekking through the densely populated rainforests, summiting some of the countries most scenic volcanic formations, relaxing on an idyllic beach shore, or going on zip-lining and kayaking adventures in your free time.

  • Build on and improve your skills in marine and wildlife conservation, community development, education, and language acquisition.
  • Learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and contribute towards long-term objectives.
  • Become a global citizen as you immerse in and better understand different cultures, traditions, customs, and ethnic cuisines.
  • Live and travel in Costa Rica, connecting with the local community and other international volunteers.
  • Improve your future employment opportunities, with hands on practical experiences and a larger database of knowledge.

GVI global programs are open!

We're thrilled to announce that nine of our global locations are now open, including Greece, Thailand, Nepal, Seychelles, South Africa, Costa Rica and Mexico. We're also taking bookings for our Thailand, Chiang Mai, Lao and Peru locations for 2021. Stay tuned for more locations coming your way soon, including a new location addition in the Canary Islands.

Popular Programs

Wildlife in Costa Rica

Based in Jalova’s Tortuguero National Park, known for an intense mix of bird species, amphibians, reptiles and wildlife, your participation supports the long-term conservation of the national park’s protection and management. Conduct research on Jaguars, turtle nesting surveys, and monitor nesting sites while being surrounded by tropical vegetation.

Volunteer working with a child in Costa Rica

Teach English to varying age-groups in the local community, including topics like conservation awareness, while also having the option to learn Spanish. Develop leadership skills in education and contribute towards collaborative community development efforts. You will also have the opportunity to explore national parks and beaches, participate in white-water rafting adventures, or enjoy canopy and coffee-related tours in your own time.

Students doing wildlife photography in Costa Rica

This is a great way to develop your skills while living in a national park, surrounded by the world's most biodiverse rainforests. This project inspires practical, in-depth photography and conservation research and awareness training that supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, and Goal 15: Life on Land.

Wild bird in Costa Rica

With over 800 bird species found in the country, this is a project that immerses you in the practicalities of bird ecology. While living in Tortuguero National Park, surrounded by dense rainforest, you’ll gain skills in conservation research by recording, processing and analysing data. You’ll also learn to identify various birds and other species, with further opportunity to work on additional research projects. Your contributions assist with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life On Land.

Wild jaguar in Costa Rica

By better understanding the behaviour and ecology of the stealthy Jaguar, local organisations and Costa Rican government are better equipped to protect this fast declining species and preserve their natural habitats. You will live in a national park setting up camera traps, learning biodiversity survey techniques, and monitoring turtles and nesting sites, where Jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles.

Questions & Answers


9.14 Rating
based on 43 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 81.4%
  • 7-8 rating 11.63%
  • 5-6 rating 2.33%
  • 3-4 rating 4.65%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Impact 8.7
  • Support 9
  • Fun 8.9
  • Value 8.7
  • Safety 9
Showing 1 - 8 of 43
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Yes, I recommend this program

I miss Jalova

It's been 5 months since I got back from Jalova, and don't I miss it!

It was just nice being able to live with bare fundamentals...stuff like cold showers, vegetarian meals, unflush-able toilets, sharing bedrooms. But it was great.
I enjoyed making an impact on our planet, I loved making friends from all around the world. it was one of those experiences that I will never get again. But I need to go back!

If you have been thinking about volunteering abroad and need somewhere really in nature miles away from any kind of civilisation. Jalova is for you.

What would you improve about this program?
There was a few small things that annoyed me. One of the staff seemed to enjoy picking on people who forget to do stuff. It was the cup of shame, so basically if you left your cup out you would get your name put in the cup of shame and then have to be given a job to make up for it. Seemed a little harsh for something most people probably forget when coming here. It was just little things like that, that didn't need rules attached. If someone did that multiple times you would just have a word one on one and that would be enough. Just felt a bit put on the spot for doing something so small.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

This program was so well organised and run. GVI gave all the information I could need before going on the trip so felt prepared. The set up in the local community was amazing - you really felt like they were benefiting so much from the work we were doing.
The feel in the GVI house was so welcoming and there were regular social things organised so got to know the people we were sharing the experience with very quickly and feel at home which just made everything that much more fun and enjoyable. Would definitely go on another GVI project!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make the most of the location. There were so many beautiful beaches and hikes.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Invaluable and Unforgettable

My time volunteering at Jalova with GVI was incredible, I've gained memories and friends I will always cherish. I saw some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring things in nature that I still can't believe, the surveys and time helping the turtles was so unique and rewarding. The experiences in the jungle test you and help you learn a lot about yourself. The work GVI is doing is amazing and I can't wait to participate in another project. I would recommend this to anyone, truly a life changing experience.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come in with no expectations, if you have any you will be wrong, just be prepared to be blown away.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Experience

I spent 6 months volunteering with GVI in Jalova, Costa Rica (Wildlife Expedition), and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The location was remote but is something most people never get the opportunity to see. Living and working within the jungle was amazing. Whether you are walking along the beach, walking through the forest, or canoeing through the canals, there is always something new to see and something new to explore. It is a magical experience to be walking along the beach at night, and suddenly see a turtle coming out of the surf to lay her nest, or be walking through the forest and suddenly see a rare animal on the path ahead of you.

This expedition is not for everyone - the location is remote, and it does require some level of fitness (walking for several hours a day, mostly). However, for those who are willing to give anything a go, and are able to adapt to local conditions then it is an unmissable experience, in my opinion. For anyone with an interest in conservation or animals will immensely enjoy their time with GVI in Costa Rica.

The staff members are very knowledgable and passionate about the work they do. Most of them are former volunteers themselves. They understand the challenges new people may face and do their best to make people feel welcomed. New volunteers generally arrive every two weeks and are from many different countries, so it is also a good chance to meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life.

I hope you decide to visit this project in the future - you won't regret it!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Take decent long-sleeved clothes, and a good amount of them. They tell you that you need them to go into the forest, which is true. The main use for them, however, is to protect against the insects. They help with this in the forest, but staff often change into long-sleeved clothing in the evenings for this very reason and it is a good idea to follow suit.
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Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best experiences of my life

I went to the GVI program in Javola, Costa Rica to work on the jaguar project. I was there for one month and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I never met or spoke to one person who didn't say the same. The base is basic but waking up to the sounds of the jungle was magical! I have worked with other conservation organisations before but GVI is by far the most professional and worthwhile program to have worked on and I felt like the research we were doing was truly being used for the conservation of the turtles, jaguar and many other species living in this amazing part of the world. Plus I made lifelong friends from all over the works. I dont have anything negative to day about GVI and cant wait to go away with them again!

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Yes, I recommend this program

I took 2 weeks holiday from my corporate sales job to live in the JUNGLE and save the jaguars

My experience volunteering in Costa Rica with GVI was honestly one of the most incredible experiences in my life. I am 29 years old and I love animals. I never studied science and had no formal education about wildlife or conservation -- I thought my love of animals would begin and end at observing them through glass at the local zoo. Until I found out about GVI's wildlife conservation volunteer programs. I chose the Jalova Costa Rica program because of my love of big cats and the fact that it is a well-established research base that runs multiple wildlife programs -- sea turtle conservation, coastal jaguar conservation, migratory bird studies, and biodiversity studies in the various habitats within the Tortuguero National Park. The base camp was RUSTIC to say the least (you technically have a roof over your head, but think of it like camping!) but waking up each morning to the sounds of howler monkeys and toucans and stepping outside the base camp gate to see fresh jaguar paw prints along the beach at sunrise -- there is nothing more incredible than that!!!
From the way the programs are presented online I was worried they would be aimed at much younger people (students or young people on gap year) but that wasn't the case at all. In a group of 20 volunteers, there were 6 others just like me who had taken holidays from their full-time job to join a GVI program. There were also retirees and I've heard that sometimes families join the programs together too! There is truly something for everyone in these trips.
GVI is a very professionally run company, they have an impressive recruiting process where you can get different points of view from employees, ambassadors, and former volunteers prior to committing to a trip. They have many different payments plans to help you organize the finances for the trip (some can be expensive -- but think of it as an 'all-inclusive resort' for two weeks and it's not bad compared to other vacations!) and there is a good infrastructure around you while you are on the trip in case anything should happen, you'll have the support you need to solve the issue.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
For those of you who have already made up your mind and you're heading to Jalova camp -- a few tips: bring your own wellies/rain boots (the packing list says you can borrow them but you are wearing them every day and you'll want a pair that fit you comfortably!), you MUST bring a headlamp and it must have a RED light setting (so the sea turtles on the beach don't confuse your lights for the moon!) - if you're buying a new one, get one with high wattage on the red light; a good raincoat is a must and a small travel umbrella is nice to have too -- it is a RAINFOREST and it rains a lot. You'll be happy to have an umbrella to run back and forth from the kitchen to the dorms to the bathrooms when it's raining at night! Lastly, as much as possible bring clothing that is quick-dry sports material. When you wash your laundry in the tub and hang it on the line you might only have a few hours of dry weather and it's always humid! Sports material clothing will dry faster and won't get stinky from sitting wet outside for days :) Enjoy your trip! It will be the time of your life!
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Yes, I recommend this program

When I decided to go help the planet on the other side of the world !

Hi !
My name is Kenza, i'm 19 and I come from France.
This summer, I had one of the greatest experiences of my life. I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica on a biodiversity conservation program, With the wonderful organization GVI !

Our days were marked by different surveys, we work on the canal (with a canoe), in the forest, in the coconut plantation but also on the beach. Every different place we observed, was populated by hundreds of species of animals. I was able to see how great the biodiversity of Costa Rica is.

Life at the camp is minimalist but that makes the beauty of the place, no hot water, flushing or light in the rooms, but the warm atmosphere makes us forget everything, even when we are not an English native!
If you have chosen the program on jaguars or turtles, don't expect to work on it all the time. Indeed, the tasks are very variable and a large part of the time and observations are reserved for wildlife (amphibians and birds especially).

This experience (going alone on an international voluntary program), brought me many things.
I learned a lot about nature, about others but also about myself. Now, I know that I am able to go abroad alone, I have made strong friendships from all over the world. I also learned an incredible number of different species (birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals...). And, I can now easily speak in English!

I also made me some very good memories:
The "nights walk" from 8pm to 1am, walking along the beach with only the moon as light (the stars if there was no moon and the lightning on the horizon). Trying to spot almost blindly, fresh tracks of turtles in the sand, to find the turtle and why not, count one by one those eggs!
The evenings on rest days (Friday evening), where small activities are organized : dancing, giant "werewolf" (game), card game or just conversations.
And, the Jag Walk, a long 25km walk in the soft sand, long and tiring but so happy at the end to have done it.

I would strongly recommend this project, it is a total change of scenery, teaching us a lot about the "luxury" that we are in Europe. And the biodiversity is so big that we can observe more than thirty species in less than half an hour.

I hope my review would have helped you decide to go there and live the greatest adventure of your life!


What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
When we were on a night survey, we found a huge wandering spider eating a wolf spider.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This experience opened my eyes!

The one time I have ever left the country was to volunteer with GVI in Quepos and I will absolutely go again. In addition to the beautiful beaches and scenic views, I gained so much on the trip. First, I was so touched by the children's eagerness to learn (regardless of the language barrier). While teaching, I learned so much on this trip about recycling and global headlines. I also gained perspective for a simpler, better way of life. The members of the community impressed me so much with their positive attitudes and resilience. In addition, I made global friendships with the awesome GVI team members. Most of all, there is a high chance I touched atleast one child's life during my time there. These reasons and many more are driving me to do more volunteer projects with GVI.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice to a future volunteer: bring plenty of sunscreen and drink more water than usual if you are not adapted to the hot atmosphere. Lastly, I wish I had brought binoculars.
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